I was made aware of Liberty Mutual Research Center in early 1990s, looking for ergonomic guidelines on manual material handling. It was impossible not to be guided by the eminent work of Stover Snook and Vincent Ciriello. A few years later I drove through the Boston area to Hopkinton, and vividly remember parking in front of the research facility in the middle of a tranquility of rural area. I was invited for a lecture, and next to the front door the sign read: Welcome Dr Alex Burdorf from Amsterdam. A nice welcome, except for the fact that I work in Rotterdam. The geographical difference between Amsterdam and Rotterdam is only 70 km, but in the hearts and mind of local people it will certainly exceed the Boston-New York rivalry! Anyway, after this initial ‘shock’, I met some interesting scientists which eventually led to a visiting scholarship in 1996.
The start of my stay was eventful. I landed in Boston in a snow storm and somehow the next day secured a nice rental house in Newton. Both working in Hopkinton and living in the Boston area for about 6 months were formative experiences. At LMRC I wrote my best-cited paper ever together with Gary Sorock. I participated in an international workshop that presented novel strategies to address the problem of low back pain at work. The scientific environment was very supportive and it turned out to be my most productive period of my life. At the same time, living in Boston was a great experience. I went to the Red Sox regularly, enjoyed the vivid music scene, and quickly became addicted to Sam Adams beer. Often times I though: you have done well for a son of an insurance agent! What coincidence, my father sold car insurances, and many years later I worked an insurance company.
For many years I have regularly returned to LMRC for common activities, and many of the colleagues I met in 1996 have become scientific friends over the years, sharing knowledge during conferences and sharing beers at conference dinners. Over the years my career has developed nicely. Although I am now working in completely different areas, the research stay at LMRC has been essential in my career. Knowledge development is based on knowledge sharing and LMRS certainly was a staunch advocate of both. It is a sad sign of time that users of knowledge on creating sound and safe workplaces, i.e. companies, are no longer interested in contributing to knowledge development and sharing themselves. I am not a policy maker or an entrepreneur (luckily!), but I would argue that the wealth of society and of companies is determined by the health of their workforce.
I am sure that the legacy of the excellent research conducted at LMRC will live on for many years to come. I am glad that I was (a small) part of this legacy.